5. Taiji Ishimori vs. Robbie Eagles – Night 3
Although there might not be a long history between Eagles and Ishimori, it is underrated.
When Robbie joined New Japan, he became part of Bullet Club and regularly tagged with Ishimori, even pairing for Super Junior Tag League.
El Phantasmo’s arrival drew a wedge between the formidable team and showed Robbie that maybe his allegiances should be elsewhere.
Yet, this past meant Robbie and Ishimori are still connected in some way.
The most unique about these two wrestlers is their versatility. Whereas other juniors are classed as high-fliers or submission specialists, Robbie and Ishimori can do it all to a high standard.
It was definitely on show in their match where they hit tope con hilos to target a body part for their patented submissions. It was a match of different layers and speeds.
After a gruelling match, Ishimori got the win with his Bone Lock just over the ten-minute mark.
It was significant to win by submission as it’s something Eagles is known for.
Despite their rocky history, this match must have brought respect between two veterans. However, their rivalry is by no means finished.
4. Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. El Desperado – Night 7
In the past, the Suzuki Gun members have never let loyalty impact tournament matches.
With El Desperado holding the Junior title, it wasn’t surprising that Yoshinobu Kanemaru found even more reasons to take this match seriously.
Both men had wins and losses throughout the tournament, so this match was vital. However, it was also personal.
To the surprise of many, the match started with Kanemaru leaving the ring and telling the referee to start the count and give away the win.
Of course, the Heel Master had a plan to win by knocking Despy down on the outside.
Yet, once the cheating tactics were out of the way, both wrestlers fought like enemies.
As expected, it was a more grounded affair focusing on speed, strength and submissions.
As both men knew each other so well, they had counters for everything and it seemed like anyone could win.
Yet, in the end, El Desperado got the win with his patented Pinch Loco. Although it cemented Desperado’s toughness, it also showed why Kanemaru is one of the most underrated wrestlers in New Japan.
3. YOH vs. SHO – Night 11
One of the most anticipated matches of the tournament was between former tag team partners SHO and YOH.
After betraying his partner during the Super Junior Tag League, SHO had been on a path of chaos while YOH struggled to gain any momentum until later in the actual tournament.
During their first bout at Wrestle Grand Slam, SHO dominated. Now, YOH wanted retribution.
As expected, the match started with SHO trying to get the advantage in any way possible, including chairs.
It seemed like the match would be over quickly as SHO did everything to beat down his former best friend.
Luckily, YOH’s heart can never be beaten. He used his power and determination to fight through, focusing on his hybrid style of submissions and high-flying.
It also helped that his CHAOS members were ready to deal with interference from the House of Torture members.
Even with all his shenanigans, YOH won after 15 minutes with his Direct Driver finisher.
After a mixed tournament, this win would have meant more to YOH than anything.
Not only did YOH prove to fans that he was capable, but he also reminded himself that he didn’t need SHO to succeed.
It also showed that SHO could be beaten despite his Bullet Club tactics.
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